Dog trainer and behaviourist John Rogerson recently started a discussion on his Facebook page concerning the possible unintended effects of socialising young puppies with other dogs.
“In the 40s, 50s and 60s all veterinarians, breeders and trainers gave puppy owners the advice not to take their puppies out where there were other dogs or even where there had been other dogs until they were six months of age,” he wrote. “This advice was given because of the risk of disease therefore socialisation between dogs was highly uncommon.
“Furthermore there was a booklet written by a leading dog biscuit manufacturer, published in the 40s but written in the late 30s, which was available to all dog owners. I quote the following from it: ‘one bad habit that must be stopped immediately is the habit of allowing your dog to go and speak to other dogs’!”
He added, “So growing up in London I cannot honestly recall instances of dogs running around playing together in local parks and commons. When I first became a training instructor I would sometimes have 40 – yes, you heard it right, FORTY – dogs in the one hour beginners class in the local church hall! Nothing spayed, nothing neutered and, surprise surprise, no aggression. No barking, lunging or trying to get to other dogs.
“Running classes now in the same environment, I know you couldn’t even get ten unknown dogs together first night without problems.
“Maybe I am looking back with rose-tinted glasses, but the very first written reference I can find to the new phenomenon of leash aggression was soon after puppy socialisation classes, dog parks and doggy day care started to become popular?”
However, many argue that early socialisation helps puppies grow into happy, confident adults who won’t be fearful or aggressive towards other dogs.
Kim Melanson, behaviour consultant at Baypath Humane Society of Hopkinton, said, “It is the exact opposite in US, we had no leash laws until the 70’s in most areas. Dogs ran around town and very much socialized with each other when I was a young kid.
“In fact, they had there own friend networks that they use to find, run around town hunting, swimming, getting into trash etc. It was not all play, but it was social for sure. I find areas here now where dogs hike or walk with owners and meet and greet and move on. The dogs seem to do well, playing might break out for a bit but then people walk.
“I think the large unsupervised group play parks or low-supervision daycares can cause problems, but other interactions can be very beneficial to dogs. We are a crowded society and now there are leash laws, but dogs need to be ok with a dog walking by them, or a quick sniff. A dog who has never met other dogs does not do well with this.”
She concluded, “You need socialization, but it has to be done right and you need training – so if play is allowed, you need a recall and so on. Basically, ‘I am not throwing the baby out with the bath water’. I like a dog to be able to at least sniff other dogs and move on at local trails and tight neighborhoods.”
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Posted by Dogs Today Magazine on Friday, 18 September 2020